Big Game Performer Scott Brown Never Changes

Copyright – AFC.co.uk

I remember talking about Scott Brown about twelve years ago and looking at his game. He was a midfielder who couldn’t really pass the ball, who couldn’t really run with the ball, wasn’t the master of a tackle nor was he going to score lots of goals.

Now I think that review is somewhat over-exaggerated, he’s been one of the very best midfielders in Scotland’s top flight for the last fifteen years (if not longer). He possesses a war-chest full of medals and even at thirty-six years of age he can still help boss midfield battles. He’s quite clearly a good footballer.

Brown has an absolute desire to win. He knows his strengths and he plays to them.

He’s a player that the opposition players, as well as their support, hate. Scott can spot a weakness in an opponent and will exploit it. He’s a wind up merchant, he get’s into people’s faces and he brings out mistakes in others.

Plenty of Aberdeen fans were suspicious of Scott Brown’s arrival in the summer as a player/coach. Was he coming up to Pittodrie to wind down his career and not give his all?

The veteran dismissed those fears about twenty minutes into his debut. As much as opposing supporters hate Brown, those faithful that watch him play for their club week in and week out absolutely adore him as Hibs, Celtic and Dons fans will testify to. He shows a determination on the football field that is rarely matched. He can also start a fight in an empty room and usually escape from the melee unscathed.

His chief victim in his mind-game battles has undoubtedly been Rangers. The history of him winding up Gers players and fans runs deep.

Last night, he managed to gain an upper-hand once again. He was in faces, winning free-kicks and just being a pain in the arse. You can see his antics from a mile away and yet it will usually still spark a reaction. You saw him jostling with Rangers players, laughing at them and trying to help officiate the game with the referee much like a certain Barry Ferguson used to do at Ibrox back in the day.

It’s these tactics that have worked in Brown’s favour for years. He drew Ryan Kent into fouling him and then sparked a reaction, which in turn creates a buzz from Aberdeen fans in the stands and urges on his own teammates. Showing us that he does all these things for a reason or various reasons. Basically to create reactions.

On the playing side, he can take a more unassuming role in terms of sitting in front of the defence and protecting them. His real value to his team is his leadership, his determination to succeed and the experience he brings with him.

Dons boss Stephen Glass is slightly worried that his players are becoming to reliant on Brown:

“I’m almost asking the boys is the glaring omission that they need Scott to push them on, kick them and poke them and make them do it? Professionally they need to be better.”

Via Press & Journal

Don’t get me wrong, if things go against him then Scott Brown has to accept that he’ll be targeted by opponents in the same way he dishes it out. It happened more often than not during his last year at Celtic Park.

But the fact that he can still perform and succeed at this level at the age of thirty-six is testament that he is indeed a great player. A player who will happily accept that some will adore him, while others will always hate him!

Remembering AS Roma’s 2001 Scudetto Triumph

When you look at the history, the size and the players that have played for the club – you’d expect AS Roma to have won more than the three Serie A titles that they’ve won in their ninety-four year history!

Their last Scudetto came in the 2000-01 season and it seemed to happen because the stars in the sky aligned themselves perfectly that year.

They had a squad full of top players and a world class manager at the helm guiding them to that championship.

Various other clubs in Italy that year could’ve thought fate would be on their side.

AC Milan had a championship winning coach in Alberto Zaccheroni, Internazionale had the legendary Marcello Lippi as their boss, Turkish great Faith Terim (who had just won the UEFA Cup with Galatasaray) was Fiorentina’s gaffer, Juventus had a well respected upstart in Carlo Ancelotti and Roman rivals Lazio had Sven-Goran Ericsson, the man who had brought them the league title the season before.

The current champions Lazio had a squad that boasted the likes of Pavel Nedved, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo. Juve had winners like Edwin van der Sar, Antonio Conte, Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane. Over at Inter there was Ronaldo, Christian Vieri, Clarence Seedorf and World Cup winner Laurent Blanc. AC Milan counted on Paolo Maldini, Leonardo and a prolific Andriy Shevchenko in their ranks. Parma also had a list of who’s who that included Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro.

Yet it was consistent bridesmaids Roma who would hold their nerve that season and end up with the main piece of silverware.

The Giallorossi had such a strong squad. They had majestic forwards and prolific goalscorers. Yet they also had experienced winners, gladiators and intelligent thinkers too.

Keeper Francesco Antonioli was always a bit under-appreciated in my opinion. He always seemed to be in the right place that year and showed real desire to help his team’s cause.

World class fullback Cafu was hitting his peak years (he had a lot of them). The rest of the defence was made up from the likes of the experienced Aldair, uncompromising new boy Walter Samuel, veteran Brazilian internationalist Antonio Carlos Zago and Jonathan Zebina who was a resilient player who would fill in gaps that year. French World Cup winner Vincent Candela would often give a rich balance to the defence as he’d compliment Cafu on the opposite side of the field.

In midfield, there were players in the engine-room that could be described as smart and hard-working. Damiano Tommasi and Cristiano Zanetti were two such talents. They’d give their absolute all for AS Roma and cover every blade of grass. The energetic Emerson arrived from Brazil in the summer of 2000 but had to wait until early 2001 to play in his debut. He only made fourteen league appearances in that title winning season but they came as the club looked to hold onto their lead and secure that league trophy. Then there was the versatile Uruguayan Gianni Guigou who could come in and work too.

Although midfield was often reserved for the industrious and for those that could win the ball back, you also had players in there that could change things going forward. Hidetoshi Nakata and Marcos Assunção might not have started as many games as they’d have wished that season but they’d get used at important times when Roma needed some extra creativity to turn things around. Nakata would have the vision needed to unlock defences, while Assunção could provide an extra threat from set-pieces.

In the final third, The Wolves were certainly spoiled for choice. No team would better Roma’s sixty-eight goals in that 2001 season.

Gabriel Batistuta had become a legendary Serie A scorer during his nine years at Fiorentina. But he left Tuscany for Italy’s capital in 2000 in search of the big title and he made an instant impact, scoring an impressive twenty league goals.

‘The Little Airplane’ Vincenzo Montella was another prolific forward. He’d often start on the bench to make way for Batistuta but he’d still chip in with important goals at important times.

Marco Delvecchio didn’t quite have the nose for goals that Gabriel and Vincenzo possessed but Marco was hardworking. That extra work-rate gave his side a balance up-top and that’s why he was used so often in the 2000-01 season.

Then you had ‘Il Capitano’ Francesco Totti. The talismanic leader of the team that had came up through the club’s youth set-up and who’d play over 600 times for AS Roma, he’d spend his entire career with the Giallorossi. Totti was one of the world’s best performers of this generation. He could grab vital goals, skip beyond opponents, battle warrior like defenders and provide bellissimo assists for teammates.

The glue that held all these superb talents together was gifted coach Fabio Capello. The serial winning boss changed to a 3-4-1-2 tactic, which allowed him to get the most from his attacking wing-backs and it gave Totti a license to play in the free, creative role in behind the strikers.

To get the best out of that talented squad and to get Roma over the line, you needed a determined manager who had tasted the greatest success before. Capello had all the tools to create that masterpiece of a squad and have them battling for every point possible.

Roma even looked the part. The 2000-01 kit was a super tight number made by Kappa. With an imperial red primary colour and golden yellow trims, the uniforms would have looked the part for any glorious Roman legion from the days of the empire.

La Lupa would go through that thirty-four game campaign and only lose three league games. They wouldn’t suffer two defeats in a row. They didn’t lose at home during that campaign and followed up two of those losses with victories.

Before Christmas, they’d secure a valuable 1-0 win over city rivals Lazio. In March, Roma broke Inter hearts with Montella scoring a late winner in a 3-2 home win.

As the season was climaxing, Juve were breathing down Capello and his team’s necks. The Roman’s had to travel to Turin. The home side were two goals up after just six minutes. It looked as though AS Roma were throwing in the towel. But that was never the Giallorossi way that year. Fabio decided to do the unthinkable and bring off captain Totti and replace him with Nakata. The Japanese superstar soon started to boss the game and take it by the scruff of the neck. He would capitalise on a Juventus mistake, heading towards the opposition’s goal before firing a fierce long distanced shot into the back of the net on the 79th minute. Then in injury time, Van der Sar again couldn’t cope with a right footed strike from Nakata and Montella grabbed an important last gasp equaliser from the resulting rebound.

When the final game of the season arrived, Roma had drawn their last two encounters and that meant to secure their first top flight title since the early eighties they had to beat fourth placed Parma at the Stadio Olimpico on the 17th of June 2001.

Over 74,000 fans were crammed into Roma’s boiling casa waving flags and cheering on their heroes, hoping to see them secure this historic Scudetto.

An extremely talented Parma side were all that stood between the Giallorosso gladiators and their destiny!

If the players were nervous, then they didn’t show it as Il Capitano led his team out to a cacophony of noise and colour. The golden sun was shining down on them!

Montella came close in the seventh minute, after neat play by Candela on the left, but the striker’s shot when inches wide.

Then just as the twentieth minute approached the ball ended up at the feet of Vincent Candela on the left side, just at the edge of Parma’s box. The French fullback passes the ball towards the edge of the area, Montella leaves it and an on rushing Francesco Totti hammers the ball home with a fearsome shot that threatened to takeaway the goal net.

The stadium erupts, the pressure is released!

Totti runs toward the home crowd, taking off his top and he’s soon engulfed under bodies. As he reemerges, the captain looks to the crowd and indicates that it’s all for them.

The home side then double their lead on the thirty-eighth minute. Batistuta was released on the right and he headed towards goal. As he entered Parma’s penalty area, the Argentine fired a low shot in at goal. The keeper gets down to it but he can only parry the ball into the path of Roma number nine Montella. The Italian hitman redirects the ball back towards goal with a first time finish and he takes off like an aeroplane as he celebrates going one step closer to becoming a champion.

Any attack from the opposition in that first half was thwarted by Antonioli and his backline.

As Parma start to chase the game in the second period, Roma start to pick a few holes with their counter attack play. This culminates with twelve minutes left on the clock. A long ball forward by Montella reaches Batigol, he cuts back inside the opponent’s box and he evades his marker. Gabriel then hits a low left-footed strike that beats the goalie and nestles in at the near post.

Pandemonium ensues as ultras and team officials invade the pitch to celebrate with the winning team.

Marco Di Vaio then struck a consolation for the visitors but nothing can dampen the glorious mood that has now surrounded the pitch and the terraces.

Then things became extremely chaotic as the Romans charged onto the field mistakenly believing that the full-time whistle had been blown. Players were swamped and they even had some of their Kappa gear taken off them as supporters claimed historic souvenirs. It was bizarre to see some of the club’s stars looking on bewildered in just their underwear!

That pitch invasion caused a further ten minute wait before the referee could officially blow the final whistle, finish the 2000-01 season and confirm AS Roma as that term’s rightful champs.

Francesco Totti would sum up his emotions years later:

‘There were many tears in the curva, of love and euphoria: the same ones that I saw many years later, on the Sunday of my retirement, when they were tinged with melancholy. I didn’t win much in my career. But the intensity of those few days of triumph, especially that 17 June 2001, more than makes up for any deficit. Happiness can’t be counted, it’s felt. The Roman and Romanista captain who leads Roma to the title is a concept that transcends pure sporting joy.’

Via Football Italia

Italian cuisine can be sublime. It can be made up of some basic ingredients and strong flavours. A nice dish can become a wonderful one with a touch of something special like a dash of local olive oil. You then have an experienced chef that brings it all together and the locals will flock to his place to enjoy the best of meals. I think that is an analogy that sits well with that consistent and sublime AS Roma side.

They never let anyone down, they had a squad full of hard-work, passion and intelligence. It also possessed the flamboyant game-changers that gave that something special to make the ultimate difference in big encounters. All the while they were bossed by one of the very best in Fabio Capello.

It was a year that would define a generation for The Romanista. It gave them and their great leader Francesco Totti that bit of silverware that they so craved. It showed what a strong team with a great work-ethic could do. It also vindicated Fabio Capello’s standing in world football.

BRAVO ROMA! CAMPIONI 2001.

Nathan Patterson: Rangers To Everton Makes Sense For All Involved

According to media reports Nathan Patterson is on the verge of sealing a move from Rangers to Everton (Source – Liverpool Echo).

It could end up being a transfer that suits every party.

Rangers look set to get a record fee of around £12m plus possible add-ons. That’s for a young player with plenty of potential but who has yet to establish himself as a regular first team starter at Ibrox.

Unfortunately for Patterson, Gers club captain James Tavernier has been ahead of the youngster in the queue to start as the team’s first choice right-back.

Tavernier is been a consistently fine performer in both domestic and European games for Rangers since his arrival in 2015. He provides plenty of assists and goals, he’s also become much better defensively too.

Now the thirty year old has been integral in getting Rangers back to the top of Scottish football and his performances haven’t been in any sort of decline. I doubt he’d get the same fee as Patterson but he’s already proven his worth to Gers both on and off the park. So it makes sense in the Scottish Premiership champions cashing in on the younger talent who will bring in more money.

That income will also put Rangers in a better position when it comes to facing deals regarding first team stars like Alfredo Morelos, Joe Aribo, Ryan Kent and Glen Kamara. The Nathan Patterson move won’t quell the interest in such talent but it should allow Rangers to get a price they want for those players.

Rangers as a business model will look to be bit more selling club. I believe they’ll want to bring in players and promote youth, get the best out of those players and then sell them on for a nice profit.

Everton will be getting an exciting talent and one who is extremely eager to prove himself on a regular basis.

While Patterson hasn’t made a huge amount of first team appearances, he has shown up well in European competition for Rangers and on the international stage with Scotland.

Seamus Coleman has been a terrific servant for The Toffees but the thirty-three year old hasn’t had the best of campaigns for his club this term. Patterson’s arrival would give Everton a new option for the right side of their defence.

Nathan is a player that loves to get forward and help in attack whenever possible. He’s tenacious and has plenty of energy. He has scored a few goals in his few appearances for club and country, he loves an overlap and seems to remain fairly calm when he gets hold of the ball inside the opponent’s penalty area. In that regard, the young full-back has more attacking potential than Andrew Robertson at Liverpool.

While he’s probably better when bursting forward, Patterson is capable when in defensive positions and he also brings height into the backline.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke, a former Premier League right-back himself, recently praised Nathan after a fine showing against Moldova:

“It was the performance of a young player who is going to develop into a really good player.” 

“A great finish for the goal, with good hold-up play from John, a good ball in from Billy and a nice finish with his left foot which, as a former right-back myself, I can recognise is something right-backs don’t always do!”

Via Daily Record

For the player the move makes plenty of sense too.

Most young British players have an urge to prove themselves in the Premier League and I bet Nathan Patterson wants to do the same.

At Goodison, given Coleman’s age and form, Patterson will see a clear route into the Toffees first team as long as he adapts quickly to his new surroundings. He might actually get more first team minutes earlier in Merseyside compare to Govan.

There are quite a few Scottish internationals shining in England’s top flight, again I can only see Nathan being ambitious enough to continue that recent trend.

In Everton, he’ll be joining a big club and one with plenty of tradition much like his current employers.

So all in all, I think it’s an all win scenario with Nathan Patterson leaving Rangers for Everton during this transfer window.

Norwich City Fans Can’t Blame All Their Troubles On Billy Gilmour

Norwich City fans weren’t in the festive mood recently as they watched their side slump to a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace (BBC Match Report).

Videos appeared on social media showing a section of Canaries fans telling loanee Billy Gilmour to go back to Chelsea, just not in such polite terms.

I can never understand supporters that single out their own players during games and abuse them. I don’t see what that kind of behaviour achieves. Do they expect Gilmour to listen and just walk off the field and head back to Stamford Bridge?

I also feel it’s sometimes extremely easy for a set of fans to single out loanees and young players for extra jeering.

Norwich have been pretty woeful this term and for that, I get their frustration.

But can they really blame the young Scottish midfielder for their woes?

I stated during their first game of the season that The Canaries couldn’t use Gilmour as their main defensive midfielder. He needs an enforcer in beside him and that hasn’t happened enough this term. Billy has looked a brighter prospect when Mathias Normann has been fit and sat in alongside the twenty year old.

I’ve seen Norwich City fans say that Gilmour isn’t good enough for the Premier League and is too light weight.

But the stats don’t seem to back that idea up.

According to stats website Whoscored: Billy Gilmour has an 84.5% passing success rate which is third best of any Norwich City player to have player ten games or more. No Carrow Road star has made on average more key passes than Gilmour’s 1.4 or makes more average passes per game too (59).

Interestingly the Scottish international is also making more tackles per game (2.5) too.

The fact is that Norwich have real issues and Gilmour was never going to come in and fix them all.

The Premier League’s bottom side have scored just eight all season, the worst of any side, and of those Teemu Pukki has bagged five of them.

Some Norwich fans have stated that Gilmour only makes sideaway or back passes. That’s not strictly true either but if you have an unwilling or a weakened frontline then it gets hard to pick out smart forward passes.

Norwich City lost their best player in midfielder Emiliano Buendía to Aston Villa, the Argentine scored 15 goals last term. Oliver Skipp also went back to Tottenham Hotspur after his loan spell finished.

When you look at the current Canaries squad, I can’t say it’s any better than the one that went down two seasons ago.

I also feel that Norwich City are still as naive as they were in the top flight in 2019-20. They still don’t have a Plan B and that kills teams. Like Fulham they seem to be better than Championship level but still not good enough for the Premier League.

Of course Norwich fans have the right to show their displeasure in a player or their team, they’ve paid good money to earn that right. But that shouldn’t result in abuse, they should probably wait for the game to end and maybe show young players a bit more patience.

I also understand the fact that Gilmour came with so much hype. Listening to Chelsea and Scotland fans you’d think Billy is already a world class talent. The truth is that he’s still learning and he isn’t going to boss each and every midfield battle on his own!

If City boss Dean Smith can bring in a proper defensive midfielder in January, then I think the Norwich support will see a brighter Billy Gilmour. They should admire the fact that the youngster doesn’t go away and hide when things go wrong because that’s the easiest way out for players.

No matter what happens between now and the end of this season, I am pretty confident that Billy Gilmour will be playing his football in the Premier League next season. I’m not quite as sure that can be said of Norwich City.

Referees Need To Start Punishing Harry Kane

No matter which way you look at Harry Kane’s tackle on Andrew Robertson a few days ago, it is a red card challenge all day long.

It was reckless, he wasn’t in control and it endangered an opponent!

It was later suggested that VAR (Source – The Mirror) and the referee didn’t send off Kane because Robertson managed to lift his leg.

This is a very dangerous precedent to set, in my opinion.

So are we saying that players will only get sent off if they injure someone? That is wrong. We should punish players who are over the top or who are lucky that the opposing player has jumped out of the way and saving themselves from a spell on the sidelines. That way the culprit learns quickly in how to tackle properly and not to be so reckless in the future.

It does seem, as an outsider, that Premier League officials will usually turn a blind eye when it comes to Harry Kane and his somewhat dodgy challenges.

The last time I seen this kind of protection was when Alan Shearer got away with kicking Neil Lennon in the head. The similarities Shearer and Kane share? They hold/held the England captain’s armband and both their countries main goal-getter.

It seems like The FA and their officials want to keep Kane happy.

I don’t think the Tottenham Hotspur striker made things any better with his post-match interview:

He says that he thinks he won the ball. He didn’t, if anything he handles the ball after catching Robertson with his stupid tackle.

It wasn’t a strong tackle, it was a bad foul.

It isn’t the first time Harry has made suspicious challenges that seem to endanger opponents.

He seems to like to create an arch and back into opposing players as they’re jumping for a header, that can be dangerous as it makes it harder for the jumping player to protect their fall.

Kane also made a very iffy tackle on Newcastle United man Florian Lejeune back in 2017.

In that clash, where he received a yellow card, Kane come in from behind and tackled with force using a scissor motion. That resulted in Lejeune missing the next seven games for The Toon.

Florian was clearly unhappy with the tackle:

“Was it a red card? Yes. It is important to punish such tackles. It was a difficult time, a very difficult time for me because I had only just arrived here, at a new club and a new country and I was trying to establish myself in the team.”

Via Sky Sports

I don’t want to lead a witch-hunt against Harry Kane, I actually admire a lot of his game.

But we can’t have one rule for one player, no matter their importance to England, and one for the rest. Referees should be made aware of this!

Four Potential Paul Pogba Replacements Man United Could Be Eyeing Up

French World Cup winner Paul Pogba is free to depart Old Trafford in the summer as his contract is set to expire (Source – Forbes).

With that in mind, Manchester United will be searching the market to find a replacement to fill the void in midfield that will be created if Pogba does leave in a Bosman deal.

Here are four midfielders that could offer something different in United’s midfield.

BOUBACAR KAMARA – OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE

Like Pogba, Kamara will be available for free once the current season ends due to his contract running down.

The French youngster has been in fine form for his club this term and he’d give United more steel in the engine room.

One of Paul’s biggest issues at Old Trafford has been his lack of defensive discipline and that’s cost his team points at various times during his Red Devils career. Boubacar would offer more defensive consistency in the middle of the park.

The midfielder is often committed to the tackle and he’s hard to evade. In Ligue 1 this term he’s averaging 1.4 tackles per game and around 1 clearance too (Stats from Whoscored).

Kamara is also composed and accomplished when in possession. He can handle himself in dribbling situations, has the strength to outmuscle opponents and possesses good ball control. The twenty-two year old is also great when it comes to ball retention, boasting a passing success percentage greater than 89% in the French top flight.

When he’s called upon to be in defensive mode, Kamara is an intelligent operator. United have missed that kind of player in recent seasons.

A youngster that has already made over 100 top flight games, Boubacar Kamara is the type of young player that Manchester United have always shown an interest in.

LORENZO PELLEGRINI – AS ROMA

Italian international midfielder Pellegrini is a very classy player and one who can often spot a defensive splitting pass. Although his passes are more about being creative than being consistent, he makes around 3 key passes per game.

Lorenzo is a very astute star who can play anywhere in central midfield, although he’s often better when attacking the opposition. He also has a keen eye for taking a dangerous set-piece.

The twenty-five year old can often take the ball in his stride and dribble at players. Pellegrini also has the ability to grab goals from midfield, he already has five in his opening thirteen Serie A outings this term. He can finish with either foot.

An extremely accomplished attack-minded midfielder but he will probably cost a fair few bob given his recent contract signing (From ASRoma.com) and he could be seen as a similar type to Bruno Fernandes.

JOHN MCGINN – ASTON VILLA

McGinn is another top all-rounder that may just fit the bill when it comes to a new midfield recruit at Old Trafford.

The Scotland star already knows the Premier League, as he has shone in it in recent seasons. He also has a track record of being a talismanic figure and being a player that rises to every career obstacle that comes his way.

At his best as a dynamic number eight who has been the chance to venture forward. In his sixteen league appearances this year, McGinn has managed to score three and contribute further with two assists.

He’s a very passionate individual and hard to shake off – whether that be off the ball or if he’s tracking an opponent.

John is a very influential midfielder, much like his current boss Steven Gerrard was at Liverpool back in the day. The Scotland international is the only midfielder to feature in the top ten lists for best tackler and most creative.

Speaking of Gerrard, the Villains gaffer has already stated his affection for John McGinn:

John has certainly been one of the most consistent ones over the four games.

“I knew John a little bit before I came through the door, and I knew he’d be the type of player to run through a wall for me.

“The effort, the commitment and the desire, the energy that he gives this team, but not only that he plays with real quality as well.

VIA THE HERALD

Given Gerrard’s obvious love for McGinn and Villa selling Jack Grealish for a huge fee last summer, it will cost United a fair chunk of cash to get John McGinn’s signature.

MARCELO BROZOVIC – INTER MILAN

The Croatian has become a vital component at Serie A champions Inter. Man United should be very interested in him given he too has a contract that expires in 2022.

Brozovic is a composed holding midfielder, who always offers himself to his teammates when in possession of the ball.

Ex-AC Milan midfield man Massimo Ambrosini recently likened Marcelo’s qualities to that of the legendary Andrea Pirlo:

“In terms of his importance and how teammates look for him, Brozovic is like Pirlo,”

“His teammates are always able to find him as a point of reference.”

“His teammates pass with Brozovic so much that he settles everything down,” 

Via Sempre Inter

The twenty-nine year old makes on average over 70 passes per league game and of those he averages a passing success rate of 91.9%!

He offers consistency, maturity and a winning mentality in the middle of the park. Again these are traits Man Utd have been missing for a while.

Brozovic offers as a fine link between defence and attack for both his club and country. He’s used to going deep and picking the ball up from his team’s backline and then play it forward. He has the ability to bring full-backs and wide players into the game.

A player who has all the traits needed to succeed in England and also boost Manchester United’s chances when it comes to continental competitions.

Dusan Vlahovic Could Fire Arsenal Back Into The Champions League!

Last night’s win over fellow Londoners West Ham United propelled Arsenal back into the Premier League’s top four positions.

The Gunners used to be mainstays in the Champions League competition but they’ve been missing for a few seasons now.

Looking at the league table, you’ll see that Arsenal are still having an issue when it comes to scoring goals. With just twenty-three goals to their name, The Gunners are the least effective in front of goal when it comes to the top six in England.

The recent issues with recently stripped captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang won’t help that particular situation (Source – Arsenal.com).

If boss Mikel Arteta stands any chance of keeping the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at bay and hold onto that vital fourth position in the Premier League standings then he might need to see his board spend big and bring in a goalscorer during this upcoming winter transfer window.

One name that has continually caught the eye in the past eighteen months has been that of Dušan Vlahović who has been lighting up Tuscany with his great goalscoring record at ACF Fiorentina.

In his ninety-four league appearances for The Viola, the Serbian has recorded an astonishing forty-two goals. This season alone has seen him grab fifteen in just seventeen Serie A outings.

Dušan looks like he’s made from marble but he doesn’t just stand around like a majestic Michelangelo statue. He has obvious strength and can battle with opposing defenders but he also has good feet and a burst of pace too. He’s a forward that keeps his composure inside the box and is also terrific in the air (Whoscored state he win over 2 aerial battles per game).

Vlahović possesess a terrific left foot and he can find the back of the net from range as well as from close distance. He’s a player that can come deep, go out wide or stay in and around the penalty area.

Before this term started former Italian hitman Christian Vieri claimed Dušan was one of the best for his age and tipped him to hit new scoring heights this season:

“Vlahovic, after Haaland, is the best striker in Europe for his age,”

“He is a top striker and will score 20 goals easily next season.”


Via Football Italia

The twenty-one year old looks to have the skill-set and the confidence that would see him shine in England’s top flight. His combative style, alongside his nose for goals could rejuvenate The Gunners attack and give them a real focal point.

The attacking all-rounder has recently rejected a new contract offer from Fiorentina (Daily Mail) and that will just see interest in his signature increase.

Top teams will be circling The Stadio Artemio Franchi waiting to pounce on this Serbian scoring sensation.

Many might not fancy Arsenal winning this race as Europe’s elite join the chase and maybe the player himself is one of those doubters.

But it is up to the likes of Edu and more of Arsenal’s supremos to prove to Dušan Vlahović that the club are on their way back up under Mikel Arteta and with him leading the line then they can get back into the grandest European competition and challenging for silverware again!

Conor Gallagher Needs To Use Mason Mount As His Chelsea Inspiration

Not many would’ve looked at the loan deal involving Chelsea starlet Conor Gallagher moving to Crystal Palace and fancied it as being one of the best moves of the summer transfer window.

But the young midfielder has been in fine form since joining The Eagles.

In his fifteen Premier League appearances thus far, Conor has scored six times and created three assists.

A quick look at Whoscored will show you that the youngster likes to push forward at every given opportunity. He has averaged around 2.3 shots per game and makes nearly two key passes too.

The twenty-one year old hasn’t been a slouch when it’s come to the defensive side of things either. He’s making 2.8 tackles per league outing, nearly one interception per every ninety minutes and a similar amount of clearances as well.

No player of twenty one years or under has secured more goal involvements in England’s top flight so far this term!

Gallagher was instrumental in Palace’s recent win over Everton (BBC Match Report), where he bagged himself a brace and he ran his socks off for the team’s cause!

His high quality and dynamic performances will no doubt have impressed current Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, a legendary Premier League midfielder during his own playing days.

But it is another boss in London that Conor will hope to catch the eye of. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will have certainly noticed that Gallagher’s name keeps popping up. He was sent out to Palace to gain valuable first team experience in the top flight and the player has grasped that opportunity, even winning a call-up with the senior England side.

Tuchel has stated he has been impressed by Conor since day one:

” I am not surprised the national coach loves him because I loved him from day one. Humble, nice, smile on his face and all the time ready to give everything, want to learn and improve.”

Via The Guardian

Fellow England midfielder Mason Mount has successfully went out on loan and then secured himself as a regular for The Blues at Stamford Bridge.

That has to be the next goal for Conor Gallagher.

He can’t overlook the rest of his stay at Selhurst Park but he has to believe he can make his stay there a springboard so he can then make it at Chelsea. That route will only become easier if he continues to impress at Crystal Palace.

Mason Mount has offered the rest of Chelsea’s youngsters the blueprint to shine with The Blues and now players like Conor Gallagher have to show they can repeat that success!

Bizarre Rafa Benitez Appointment Rocking Everton (As Predicted)

My plan was always to revisit the Rafa Benitez Everton appointment this month.

Back in early July, I wrote a blog stating I didn’t think the shock decision to give the former Liverpool boss the hot-seat at Goodison would work out well.

Obviously Rafa’s previous stint at Anfield was going to be a major stumbling block, especially as he’d often treat The Toffees with disdain during that time in his career.

But there were quite a few other issues that I made in that blog post that I felt would work against him at the blue half of Merseyside. These issues seem to be coming home to roost.

After Liverpool, Rafa has struggled to really make an impact at any other club he’s been at. He never got the job done at Napoli and while loved at Newcastle United, he didn’t bowl anyone over with his team’s performances or results. The least said about his time at Chelsea and Inter Milan the better.

The Spaniard’s tactics can often be a bit too conservative and that doesn’t wash in the Liverpool area.

Interestingly in my previous article I said if Benitez were to struggle at Everton then the Liverpool support would probably fall back in love with their old gaffer. Seeing the Reds support singing Rafa’s name as his team were losing 4-1 at home (BBC Match Report) to Liverpool would not have gone unnoticed by the passionate yet frustrated home crowd.

The fans have gone beyond their manager and started pointing fingers at the club’s hierarchy, which usually means the end for any endangered gaffer in a dugout.

That derby loss now means The Toffees have now gone eight games without a win and they’ve dropped to sixteenth in the Premier League table, only five points separate them from the relegation zone.

The team started the season off well but as is the case with suspect appointments when things hit the fan then they really hit the fan!

The board have come out and backed Rafa Benitez with the dreaded vote of confidence:

“In the meantime, the owner and board of directors will continue to provide our manager, Rafa Benitez, with their full support.”

Via AP News

Everton have spent big in recent transfer windows, expect for the last one. In that time, they haven’t competed well enough and consistently enough in the league.

Financial fair play could now become an issue too. Both Jordan Pickford (Eurosport) and Dominic Calvert Lewin (Evening Standard) are being linked with moves to London. The clubs reckless and somewhat scattergun approach in the transfer market has already cost Marcel Brands his job as the club’s Director of Football (Source – The Guardian).

If Everton are looking to reshape their infrastructure, then it I don’t think the fans will be happy with Rafa Benitez overseeing that project.

It could be better for the club’s owners to give club legend Duncan Ferguson the reigns until the end of the season and see if the Scotsman can turn things around again. He’d at least get the fans back onside in the short term.

Two Defensive Transfer Targets That Could Solidify Antonio Conte’s Spurs

Antonio Conte will no doubt understand the major issues he has at Tottenham Hotspur now.

He has watched on as his team has produced a mixed bag of results. He stated this after his side’s recent loss in Europe:

“After three weeks I am starting to understand the situation. It is not simple,”

“At this moment the level at Tottenham is not so high.”

“I must be honest and tell you that after three-and-a-half weeks, I am starting to understand the situation. I can tell you that the situation is not simple.”

Via Sky Sports

A quick look at the Premier League table and you’ll see that the defence has been a huge headache. They’ve conceded seventeen in their opening twelve league fixtures.

Now the good thing for Spurs is that they’ve now got a new boss that’s very capable when it comes to making a defence better. I believe he’ll have sized up the current defensive crop he has within his squad and will want his recruitment team to bring in reinforcements as soon as possible.

With that in mind I think Conte and Director of Football Fabio Paratici will take a look at their homeland for possible signings.

Antonio is a manager that has no issues going back to a previous employer and bringing in a player that he trusts.

With that in mind the Italian could try and see if Inter Milan are willing to do business regarding Stefan de Vrij.

The twenty-nine year old Dutchman would come in as an experienced head and a foot-soldier Conte would trust to be a leader on the park.

Inter had a very impressive defensive record as Conte guided them to the Serie A title last term and De Vrij was a big part of that record.

The Dutch international is a smart central defender. He can conduct passes out of the backline and those included some spectacular long range passes that will get the ball to Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son asap.

Composure, trust and possession are the keys that would see Conte head back to the San Siro to try and prize that asset away from the Nerazzuri.

A possible target that might be more outside of the box.

Gleison Bremer has been a top performer for Torino for a few seasons now.

The Brazilian has no issues coming out and being combative with the opposition. He’s used to playing in a back three, which is a major plus as that is a formation Conte loves!

His stats this season have been extremely impressive. He’s averaging over two tackles per league game, four interceptions and 3.7 clearances (Stats via Whoscored). What Spurs would give for a defender with those kind of stats at the moment.

Bremer is also terrific in the air in both boxes. That’s another plus if he were to arrive in England.

Tottenham Hotspur and their defence haven’t been the same since the departures of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

Antonio Conte needs to work his wonders and build up a new backline that are mean, aggressive and solid. That will probably mean going into the transfer market and the Italian going to a market that he knows inside out.